Being out in the countryside with my dogs gives me time to think. I’ve learnt the pleasure of solitude without being lonely, and that’s a good feeling for me.

Welcome to "Man with two dogs" - the family website for dog owners and dog walkers.

This is my countryside diary which appears each Saturday in the Dundee Courier newspaper.

When is a chicken not a chicken?

May 13th, 2006

THE CLOCK showed 5.15 – a decidedly unholy hour to awake last Sunday morning. It must have been a spontaneous reaction to reading in Saturday's Craigie Column that Sunday was International Dawn Chorus Day.

 The roseate hues of early dawn  €¦' wrote Cecil Frances Alexander, who also wrote the hymn  All things bright and beautiful'. Well, there wasn't so much as a flicker of roseate hue outside our bedroom window. It was thick mist and I couldn't see much beyond the garden fence.

As for a dawn chorus, everything was drowned out by the ewes and their lambs bawling at each other – you'd think every lamb had landed up with the wrong ewe overnight, and they were running around blindfold trying to sort out the mix-up. Strutting cock pheasants were klok klokking their raucous greetings, and the cushie doos were crooning musical kisses to each other.

To cap it all Macbeth was yelping in his sleep as he pursued fantasy squirrels; perhaps for once in his short-legged career he was dreaming that he actually caught one. Then the breadmaker chimed in, and I could hear it in the kitchen churning the bread mixture round and round. In short, the dawn chorus didn't stand a chance.

At 6.29am the Doyenne asked why I didn't do a sun dance and chase all the mist away. It was a pretty smart thought for such an early hour, but it was cosy in bed and I didn't fancy clumping round the garden on a grey, chilly morning invoking a reluctant sun god.

The dogs would have loved it. Macbeth prancing about on his hind legs doing his circus act, and Inka losing the plot, as usual, and galloping round in circles like a demented banshee.

I was pleased to hear from Hazel Forbes, who called in response to my comments about ground-questing partridges. Her late husband Bob was a gamekeeper at Millden, up Glenesk, and latterly at Reidhall. Hazel told me she was once given a clutch of six red leg partridge eggs which she set under a hen to hatch.

When the chicks hatched they couldn't believe they weren't hens, and took to hen life as if to the manner born. Each evening they followed the real hens into the henhouse, perched on the poles alongside their surrogate mother and roosted overnight with her. The last to die was about five years old when it eventually succumbed.

So, bang goes another long-cherished belief: and I'm also surprised to learn that partridges can live as long as five years.

Last September I mentioned the Doyenne's niece, Claire, who runs a kiwi breeding project in New Zealand. In her latest letter she tells us that she and her team hatched 108 chicks last season, which has never been done before. It's surprising what you read first in the Courier!